Welfare Reform/TANF

Recent Report on TANF’s Responsiveness to the Recession Has Serious Flaws

A recent study on how the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program responded to increased need during the Great Recession, by Ron Haskins and Kimberly Howard of the Brookings Institution and Vicky Albert of the University of Nevada, asserts that "TANF was more responsive to the recession than critics have claimed." It concludes that TANF responded in the majority of states as a good safety net program would. These conclusions, however, are off the mark as they rest on seriously flawed analysis. When the flaws are addressed, the results lead to the opposite conclusion.


Chart Book: TANF at 18

Eighteen years ago, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant was created as a part of the 1996 welfare reform law to replace the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.

This chart book illustrates facts about TANF’s 18 years of history.


TANF Cash Benefits Continued To Lose Value in 2013

Cash assistance benefits for the nation's poorest families with children fell again in purchasing power in 2013 and are now at least 20 percent below their 1996 levels in 37 states, after adjusting for inflation.

TANF provides a safety net to relatively few poor families: in 2012, just 25 families received TANF benefits for every 100 poor families, down from 68 families receiving TANF for every 100 in poverty in 1996. But for the families that participate in the program, it often is their only source of support, and without it, they would have no cash income to meet their basic needs.




The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant provides federal funds to states for income assistance programs for poor families with children, welfare-to-work efforts, work supports such as child care, and other social services for low-income families.  Roughly 4 million Americans receive TANF-funded assistance.

Policy Basics:
An Introduction to TANF

Featured Experts

  1. LaDonna Pavetti Ph.D.

    LaDonna Pavetti Ph.D.

    Reports | Bio

  2. Liz Schott

    Liz Schott

    Reports | Bio

  3. Arloc Sherman

    Arloc Sherman

    Reports | Bio

The Center conducts research and analysis on federal TANF issues as well as state policy choices and implementation issues.  We also provide technical assistance to state policymakers and policy analysts to help states design their TANF programs to reach more eligible families and meet families’ particular needs.

By the Numbers

  1. Jobs
  2. RSS
  3. Contact Us

Sign Up for E-Mail Alerts

RSS Feeds


Browse Reports